Blurbs are hard! You somehow have to convey your tens of thousands of words of writing into a short succinct couple of paragraphs! And not only that, you have to make those paragraphs strong enough that they’re going to hook your ideal reader!
Here are 5 key things that I think are important when crafting a blurb.
1. What are you promising your reader?
I like to think of a blurb as a promise to the reader. When a reader reads my blurb, I want them to know exactly what kind of journey they’re in for if they pick up the book.
You don’t want your reader to come into your book expecting one thing if you’re going to deliver another. This is going to lead to bad reviews. And you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to attract your ideal reader by trying to sell your book as something different to what it is.
When you’re making your promise to your reader, some things you might want them to know from glancing at your blurb are:
What genre is it? What tropes are you including? (Enemies to lovers? Forbidden love?) And what premise are you going to deliver? (A game where children have to fight to the death? A summer camp for demi-gods?).
Think about the elements of your story that will attract your ideal reader. What is your promise to them? Make sure you convey it in your blurb.
2. Start with your hook
What is the key element that’s going to pull in your perfect reader? Start with it! You could do this through a tagline, an accolade, a quote, a comp title, or by stating your main promise to the reader in the first line of your blurb.
You want to grab your readers attention straight away.
3. Setup / Story Promise (‘fun and games’) / Stakes
After I’ve caught the attention of my reader with a short snappy hook, it’s time to tell them exactly what I’m promising them in my book. I'll do this by telling them the 'setup', the 'story promise', and the 'stakes'.
I’ll start with the setup – which will usually be a sentence or two that includes who the main character is, the USP of the world they’re in (if a fantasy), and then the inciting incident. I.e. who is the character and what is going to set the story in motion?
An example of my story setup for Devils Inc.
When law student Rachel uses the free WiFi on a night out she accidentally signs her soul away to Devils Inc. - the supernatural L.A. based soul trading company set up by Lucifer himself. Because who reads the terms and conditions, right? And it was NOT the internship she was hoping for.
I’ll then write a sentence or two to convey my story promise. For anyone familiar with Blake Snyder’s ‘Save The Cat’ (an excellent book on screenwriting), this is the part of the blurb where I’ll want to hint at my ‘fun and games’ section of the book. Basically, I want to give my reader a hint of the things that will happen in Act Two of my story, once the initial set-up has taken place. (In the Hunger games, for example, this would be the part where Katniss is actually fighting in the games).
An example of my story promise for Devils Inc.
Soon she's brought into a world of snarky angels, badboy omens, dangerous demons, and apocalyptic prophecies.
Then I’ll end with a hint at the stakes, or an unanswered question, or a promise that something is going to go wrong.
An example of my stakes for Devils Inc.
And before long surviving law school is the least of her worries. Surviving is. Because it looks like someone has triggered the apocalypse. . .
4. Keep it short!
Less is more. You don’t want, or need, to tell your readers everything about your story in the blurb. You just need to pique their interest. This is easier to do with a short succinct blurb than a long rambling essay.
The last blurb I wrote I went through many iterations of it. Once I'd written down my setup, story promise, and stakes, I looked at different ways I could convey the same message but in fewer words. Be ruthless.
A tip that can help you keep your blurb short, is to get someone else to read it for you. I had my boyfriend look over it (who hadn't read the book) and he instantly found some unnecessary information that I had become attached to as the author, but that actually detracted from the effectiveness of the blurb.
I'd definitely say, the shorter the better. Try to keep your blurb below 150 words (max).
5. Read other blurbs from your genre
This is vital! More important than any of the advice I've given in this post! Check out the blurbs of the bestselling authors in your genre. They’re obviously doing something right! Get a feel for the way they’re structuring their blurbs and try to emulate it in your blurb.
These are five things I like to think about when writing a blurb.
How do you write your blurbs? Let me know your tips! And share your latest blurb in the comments!
LAUREN PALPHREYMAN is a writer based in London. She is best known for her supernatural teen romance series, Cupid's Match, which has accumulated over 50 million hits online and was published by Wattpad Books / Penguin Random House, October 2019. Find her on Instagram @LaurenPalphreyman and on Twitter @LEPalphreyman.
Get hold of her debut, Cupid's Match, here!